The director of the D.C. Department of Human Services announced a major administrative "realignment" yesterday, appointing four deputy directors who he said would help him oversee the huge agency's operations and improve efficiency and services.
M. Jerome Woods, a former California social services director who was confirmed as DHS director Tuesday by the D.C. Council, said the new deputies, two of whom have been serving as consultants to the agency, would reduce duplication of activities and increase coordination among agencies.
"You need help to run an agency of this size," Woods said in an interview. "We have about 15 different offices that report to the director, and this makes it difficult to get on the front end of most issues. The realignment will allow me to delegate essential management issues to these deputies."
The new deputy directors are Theodore Carthen, a consultant to the department who was named chief deputy director; Robert Little, also a department consultant, who will serve as deputy director for administration; Vernon Hawkins, former acting commissioner of social services and former administrator of the Rehabilitation Services Administration, who will be deputy director for programs, and Jeanette Michaels, the attorney-adviser to the D.C. lottery board, who will become deputy director for legislative and legal affairs.
Carthen was chief of staff to a former lieutenant governor in California, and Little was deputy director of the Michigan Department of Social Services.
Woods said the four deputies would each receive salaries of about $68,000 a year.
The deputy directors will work with the agency's three commissioners for social services, public health and mental health services. DHS has about 6,000 employes and a budget of about $1 billion.
The announcement yesterday brought some criticism, and sources familiar with the agency's operations expressed concern that the realignment would distance the director from the workings of the department and create another layer of bureaucracy for the commissioners.
"The commissioners will have to work their way through them or around them," said a source. "What you're getting is the traditional bureaucratic response to how you handle a large agency."
Woods said he expected criticism of the agency's restructuring "because change is painful." But the realignment, he said, would ensure that there would be more involvement in decision-making at the top levels of the department.
DHS is already in the midst of revamping its contracting practices, in part because of a federal probe of city contracting. Its current vendors have complained, however, that they have had trouble getting paid or negotiating new contracts while the awarding of contracts is being overhauled.
"At some point, you have to stop the train and fix it," said Woods.
The director said all contractors would be paid by Christmas and that existing contracts would receive four- to six-month extensions. By then, he said, he hopes DHS will have renegotiated competitively bid, multiyear contracts "that won't all end on the same day."
The deputy directors and commissioners, Woods said, will help him focus on the agency's top priorities, which he listed as instituting management efficiency, increasing staff training, improving services available to children and youth, improving service program performance, lowering the District's infant mortality rate and increasing community involvement.